You Might Find True Happiness in a Meaningless Life
If you've been feeling low and blue these past few months, you're not alone. It could be due to many things, from pandemic fatigue to seasonal depression. But if the standard lens through which you see the world makes you feel even bluer, why not consider a fresh approach, like nihilism?
Before you dismiss this entire article because of nihilism's bad reputation for being "depressing" and "grim," we encourage you to give it a chance. It might surprise you.
For this article, we consulted acclaimed writer and editor Wendy Syfret's book, The Sunny Nihilist: How a Meaningless Life Can Make You Truly Happy.
Life is meaningless
While that statement may sound grim, it can also be freeing. In its stripped-down form, this is what nihilism preaches. More often than not, the world has become obsessed with finding "meaning" in every aspect of life. However, not everything has to have meaning. When we realize this, we can examine meaning as a concept we create.
Even if you don't fully embrace nihilism, you can still use it as a prompt to contemplate: Why do you believe what you believe? From where do your ideas come? How does your belief benefit you and others around you?
Don't get us wrong. The quest for a meaningful life isn't inherently bad. After all, it has helped push humanity forward for millennia. It's primarily responsible for our development as a society. Unfortunately, people in power can easily hijack our quest for meaning, producing a dupe for that feeling to benefit their own goals and even pockets.
Suddenly, every consumer product is "life-changing," and every job "culture-defining." Narratives are bloated to romanticize every single thing. This might be great marketing, but it can be exhausting when we adapt it to our lives.
Meaning can make you selfish
Our quest for meaning can easily make us self-obsessed. The widely accepted search for meaning gives us permission to spend a lot of time (and even money) thinking about ourselves. In contrast, nihilism's belief that "you don't matter" forces us to confront our insignificance in the face of the universe. When we're not devoted to ourselves, there are interesting considerations around how we spend our time, energy, and money.
Think of value instead of meaning
Value is different from meaning; it is real, as the practical use of the products we surround ourselves with. We could all benefit from thinking more about value. And living your life prioritizing value over meaning might make you feel better rewarded for your efforts.
Meaning removes us from the present
The quest for meaning promises fulfillment and a way to "living right." However, it often delivers confusion. Meaning can quickly show itself as another task we can never manage to fulfill.
The bottom line is this: to be truly happy, we have to stop thinking about what our lives could be and should be. When we stop should-ing and could-ing, we ground ourselves to reality. And if we can accept that our existence doesn't need a reason, we realize that all we have is this life and moment we live in.
With this new perspective, how will you spend your time? And how will happiness present itself differently?
You could be fully present when enjoying your cup of coffee first thing in the morning. You could choose to go out on more walks around the neighborhood or perhaps spend more time with the people you love. With nihilism's "life is meaningless," you just might find happiness and allow yourself to enjoy the little things.